What is the lowest value coin you would be willing to pick up if you saw it lying on the sidewalk or in a parking lot? A quarter, a dime, a nickel? Would you bend over to pick up a penny?
What if you accidentally threw it away? Would you dig through the trash for a penny?
We sold a rare 1909 penny for $650 in March. I don’t know about you – but I would definitely dig through the trash for that penny!
What made this particular penny so valuable? Lincoln was first added to the penny in 1909. The penny’s designer added his initials VDB prominently at the bottom of the coin, which caused some controversy.
Because of that controversy, fewer than 500,000 of the pennies were minted before his initials were removed.
Once you’ve rummaged through your drawers to find your old coins, check these four things to help determine their value.
Year – Every coin has a year printed on it. If you can’t find the year, it likely wore off from use. There are methods to determine the year, even if you can’t see it anymore – but you will want to consult with a professional.
Mint Mark. This is a small, capital letter, printed on the coin. The letter corresponds to where the coin was minted: P is for Philadelphia, D is for Denver, S is for San Francisco and W is for West Point.
Errors. Coins with mistakes from being stamped are typically more valuable because fewer of the coins were circulated. It’s worth checking into the value of any coin that has double letters or a noticeable error.
Condition. Is the coin like new, has it obviously been circulating for a while, have any of the engravings been worn off? The condition of sought-after coins will have a big impact on their value.
What coins have performed well at auction recently?
1937-D 3-Legged Buffalo Nickel. The Buffalo Nickel was minted from 1913 to 1938. This particular nickel is an error coin where one of the front legs of the buffalo is missing. USA Coin Book lists the value of this nickel as ranging from $600 to nearly $6,000 depending on its condition.
1916-D Mercury Dime. U.S. Coin Book estimates the value of this dime, which was minted in Denver, at about $1,700 in average condition and up to nearly $32,000 in uncirculated condition.
Peace Silver Dollars. The Peace Silver Dollar was produced from 1921 through 1928 to celebrate peace following World War I. Depending on the condition, a set of four to eight Peace Silver Dollars has sold for up to $180 at our auctions in the past few years.
A Google search can give you a basic idea of whether or not a specific coin is valuable. But it’s always a good idea to have a certified appraiser appraise any coins you suspect may be worth significantly more than face value.
Erik Hoyer owns EJ’s Auction & Appraisal in Glendale. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org, www.ejsauction.com or 623-878-2003.